Written by Bikeman Tuesday, 20 March 2007 00:07
Most likely you won't see any mechanics using the pluck and listen method of spoke tensioning any longer. Especially now that there is an affordable means to accurately measure spoke tension. The Park TM-1 tension meter is a tool that any mechanic, self-proclaimed or professionally trained, can make good use of.
It is extremely important to maintain proper tension on your wheels throughout their life span. A truing stand can often diagnose that there is a problem and allow you to fix the problem, at least temporarily. But often times an even larger problem may be lurking that you might not even know about until it is too late. A tension meter is a tool that will give you a deeper look into the overall strength and well being of your wheels. It will tell you how to go about truing the wheel (do you need to tighten or loosen spokes) and also what problems may be lying in the weeds waiting to ruin your next ride.
For the longest time a tensiometer was a tool hidden away on the bench of the Bike Shop's master wheel builder. They usually came in a nice little padded storage box that contained the tool and a calibration chart. I own on of these tools in the little padded box and it works great. (it's a Wheelsmith Tensiometer) I can also tell you that I could by three Park TM-1's for the price I paid for my Tensiometer. And to be honest, after building several wheels using the Park TM-1, I am ready to retire the little padded box for good.
Initially I was a bit skeptical. How could a tool that is so reasonably priced out perform my old standby? It came down to ergonomics. The TM-1 is designed to fit in your hand and allow you to easily read the dial at the bottom. My old tool was more of a pinch mechanism that you would hang off the spoke and read.
Functionally the Park TM-1 is well constructed and though out. The tool is rebuild able, although I can't see it ever needing to be rebuilt, and can also be recalibrated if necessary. (you would need to send the tool back to Park for recalibration) Read the attached instructions if you have any questions on how to use or care for the tool as they are very well written. I'm more of a trial and error guy so it did take me a bit to get the hang of where the spoke fit in the tool. After a few spokes the TM-1 seemed to become an extension of my hand that happened to calibrate spoke tension.
I can't stress enough how important spoke tension is to building and truing a strong / reliable wheel. If you own a truing stand you need this tool. If you true your wheels on the bike using the brakes as a truing stand, you need this tool. If you always lusted after the expensive, "professional" tensiometer and thought you could never own one, now you can. The instruction manual from Park also includes some basic info on spoke tension that sheds more light on the importance of a tensionmeter.
Leave it to Big Blue to design a reliable tension meter for the masses. My coveted tool in the little padded box is collecting dust under the work bench these days. While the TM-1 has become Bikeman's tension meter of choice
PARK TOOL TM-1 Instruction Manual
PARK TOOL TM-1 Tension Conversion Chart
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